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Hollywood's A Big Business, And LA's Mayor Wants More Latinos Involved


Tonight is the Oscars, when Hollywood gathers to celebrate and reward the best movies and the people who make them. Despite the fact that Latinos make up almost half the population of the LA area, only a tiny fraction of them are employed behind and in front of the camera. There is now a new jobs program to change that with the aim of doubling Latino representation in Hollywood over the next decade. It's called LA Collab, and it was co-founded by the mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti. Welcome.

ERIC GARCETTI: Hi - great to be with you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You are the mayor of LA. Ultimately, Hollywood is a big employer in your city. Is this a simple jobs program?

GARCETTI: No, it's much more. This is about making sure that our economy thrives for everybody and that we all have opportunities, especially here in Los Angeles in our trademark industry - that it shouldn't matter your zip code, your cultural background when it comes to telling your story and having access to the industry that greenlights or doesn't the stories of this country and, in many cases, this world. While Latinos are more than a quarter of U.S. box office, we're between 1 and 6% of the folks that are making decisions and making the movies and television shows here in Hollywood. And so what can we do not just to give lip service or a few unpaid internships that go nowhere, but really steadily get Latinos into Hollywood in positions where they can tell the stories of America through their eyes?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why, in your view, aren't we seeing movies about Latinos? And why aren't Latinos being employed?

GARCETTI: Well, I think it's, you know, a kind of vicious circle. I think people who aren't making those decisions, who come from our community - they're not going to have the opportunity to tell those stories. And those stories, when they're not told, just confirm folks who don't greenlight those sorts of stories that they either don't exist or that nobody wants to see them. We know that there are amazing American stories in every community. Eva Longoria, who's helped us launch this, will become a director soon telling the story of the man who invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos, the number one snack in the world now, you know, something that people know all over. And I think also, too, in Hollywood sometimes and we're so proud of folks in Latin America who have won awards, especially directors from Mexico recently. But that is a different experience than Latinos in the United States of America.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I was about to say most of the artists and directors that The Academy is honored might be Spanish-speaking. But they're either from Latin America or Spain.

GARCETTI: Exactly. I mean, somebody came up and said, well, you know, at least we got Antonio Banderas this year. But...


GARCETTI: Banderas is an amazing actor and a friend.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But he's a white European from Spain.

GARCETTI: Exactly. And so I think, you know, we have so many incredible stories. And because Los Angeles is half Latino now, we have, I think, the opportunity to really make that sort of impact.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lots of people have signed on - J.J. Abrams, as you mentioned, Eva Longoria, the agency CAA. How will this work - quotas?

GARCETTI: No. I mean, we'd love to see people making commitments to numerical goals and art. We certainly have one, which is to double the number of Latinos that are in Hollywood as creators and developers. But we have our first five deals. We didn't want to just say, hey, go do this and pound people over the head. There's a finance development deal of a feature script with Endeavor Content. Warner Media's 150 has a scripted proof concept deal. Shine Global, a company here, has a development deal that they committed to for a documentary. And we will just continue making deals. Hollywood's all about making deals. We felt that by collaborating and convening and cajoling that government could play a really positive role in making this industry even stronger and, of course, more representative.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, at the crux of this, of course, is the persistent, difficult issue of who has power. And in Hollywood, that's still white men. What is your pitch about why they need to do something different? I mean, it's not like Disney's hurting at the box office.

GARCETTI: No. But if you're not looking at what's coming, you're going to be swept away and left behind. And it's not even anymore that our community is growing and coming. It's here. Imagine at a time when some people are not going to movie theaters - but Latinos are in record numbers - how this can help save the box office. Imagine what this could mean for your streaming service if you carve out, you know, a niche that not only speaks to this community but speaks from this community to everybody else. You know, this is an economic decision. You are losing money if you leave people behind.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Since we have you on the line, I'd like to ask you this past week, as I'm sure you know, the Department of Homeland Security kicked residents of an entire state, New York, off its global entry program because of New York's so-called immigrant sanctuary laws. President Trump is threatening to expand that list. LA is a sanctuary city. Are you worried?

GARCETTI: Yeah, it's kind of a crazy time we live in. I remind the White House this is all our country. The president, these are all of your constituents. No matter how they vote every four years, you can't carve states out. I always say come and learn something instead of, you know, weaponizing all of this. But we know it's an old playbook. We know it's a way to speak to a base. But New York is a huge engine of this country. California is as well, just as the, quote, unquote, "heartland" is. We certainly would never cut out the heart of this country. But it seems like some days the president wants to do that to us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was LA mayor Eric Garcetti. Thank you very much.

GARCETTI: Great pleasure to be with you - thanks, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.